California is starting a new program aimed at expanding the state’s legal cannabis market and increasing access in underserved areas.

The state’s Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) is launching the Local Jurisdiction Retail Access Grant to provide resources to expand access.

California is allocating $20 million to the program.

DCC says the grant will prioritize areas with high consumption rates but little-to-no access to legal cannabis retailers.

The goal is to incentivize local best practices by prioritizing equity operator-supporting programs and utilizing existing licensing practices.

“Expanding access to California’s retail cannabis market is an important step towards protecting consumer safety and supporting a balanced market,” says DCC. “The retail access grant program ultimately seeks to encourage legal retail operations in areas where existing customers do not have convenient access to regulated cannabis.”

DCC says the program launch marks the first time a state has offered retail cannabis licensing access grants at the local government level.

According to DCC, over 60 percent of jurisdictions in California do not offer local retail cannabis licensing.

The new grant program aims to provide crucial assistance to cities and counties partnering with the state for safe and sufficient consumer access.

DCC released the grant guidelines on Tuesday, detailing application requirements

“Of the 33 counties in California that currently do not offer cannabis licenses, there are nine counties where the rates of cannabis consumption are substantial, despite only having one or zero licensed cannabis retailers,” states DCC in a press release. “In four of the nine counties, there are no licensed cannabis retailers (Butte, Glenn, Madera, and Sutter). Because cannabis consumers within these areas would benefit from expanded access to licensed cannabis, these counties—and the cities within them—will receive priority review should they apply for a grant and implement a permitting program.”

Growing the Legal Market

According to DCC, a less-accessible legal cannabis marketplace threatens consumer safety and perpetuates the illicit trade.

DCC believes financially supporting creating pathways to licensing and incentivizing legal retail access will reduce illicit market activity.

On Tuesday, DCC released grant guidelines explaining application requirements.

Releasing the guidelines began a Q&A period to assist local governments with the grant and clarify the application process.

DCC will accept questions about the grant program via email ( until 5 p.m. on February 24, 2023.

DCC says it will start accepting applications on March 10, 2023, and Phase I funding ends at 5 p.m. on April 28, 2023.

Counties intending to create a local retailer licensing program but do not currently have one may participate in the program.

Grant recipients may use funds for equity applicant and licensee support, environmental reviews, permitting expenses, and personnel costs.

DCC says the program will award up to $10 million by June 20, 2023.

According to DCC, remaining funds will be available for previous awardees as they issue licenses.

By Benjie Cooper

Raised on geek culture, Benjie has been in cannabis news since 2014, and a consumer since long before that. Before starting CannaGeek, he wrote for the Candid Chronicle and co-hosted the Nug Life Radio Show.

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